The President's News Conference
THE PRESIDENT. [1.] Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
I have some announcements to make to you this morning. There will be other releases available through Mr. Christian 1 as a result of some of our labors yesterday and last evening.
1 George Christian, an assistant press secretary.
We will be processing something like 100 bills in the next few days. We will give you information on them as soon as we can.
We have no desire to rush you or snow you, but I guess you do want to know what is happening.
We do want to get through with the examination of these measures and take action on them as soon as we can.
[2.] I shall be seeing some of you in San Antonio tomorrow. I plan to come in during the afternoon and submit to some preparatory examinations prior to the surgery that will take place in the next few days.
We will also look at the facilities at Brooke Hospital and consult with the doctors while we're there, before we make a decision where the operations will take place.2
2 The final arrangements were announced by the President on November 13 (see Item 610 ).
We would like for them to take place here if that is possible, and we would like to advance the date as much as we can. Now that we know it is going to be necessary, I guess the quicker you get it over with the better.
I would hope that the doctors could agree to an operation somewhat earlier than we originally expected.
[3.] I am expecting Mr. Komer, my special assistant in connection with Vietnam, to arrive late today or early tomorrow morning.
He will follow through with the conversations and recommendations as a result of his most recent visit to Vietnam and the preliminary discussions we had with the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense earlier in the week.
[4.] I expect Ambassador Goldberg to arrive at the ranch sometime before I leave for San Antonio tomorrow. I hope to have some extended discussions with him. Perhaps he will fly into San Antonio with me. If not, I will try to give you a summary of the results of our conversation.3
3 On November 7, the White House made public a report to the President from U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Arthur J. Goldberg (2 Weekly Comp. Pres. Docs., p. 1670).
ANNOUNCEMENT OF APPOINTMENT OF SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION
[5.] I have a statement in connection with the announcement of the appointment of the Secretary of Transportation, which I will present to you at the request of the radio and television people. I will read it and there will be copies available to all of you, from Mr. Christian's office.
On October 15, I signed the Department of Transportation bill, which established that Department. At that time, I remarked that the problems of untangling, coordinating, and building a national transportation system worthy of America was a monumental task.
I said, "Because the job is great, I intend to appoint a strong man to fill it. The new Secretary will be my principal adviser and my strong right arm on all matters affecting transportation in the United States. I hope he will be the best equipped man in this country to give leadership to the country, to the President, to the Cabinet, and to the Congress."
Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to announce that I believe that man described above is Mr. Alan Boyd, the present Under Secretary of Commerce. It is my intention to nominate Mr. Boyd as Secretary of Transportation as soon as Congress convenes in January.
Mr. Boyd has broader experience in the field of transportation than any other individual that I have been able to observe within or without the Federal Government. He came to Washington to serve President Kennedy as Chairman of the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1961. In 1965 I appointed him Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation. Prior to his Federal service, Mr. Boyd was chairman of the Florida Railroad and Public Utilities Commission. Before that, he was general counsel of the Florida Turnpike Authority. He is intimately familiar with all modes of transportation, at all levels of government.
As Under Secretary of Commerce for Transportation, Mr. Boyd has been charged with the overall responsibility for the basic transportation of the Federal Government.
He was a member of the task force which recommended to me the establishment of a Department of Transportation. He has worked with the Members of Congress on the legislation establishing the Department. It was under his leadership and by his guidance that this legislation was enacted.
This will be the fourth largest department in the entire Federal Government. It brings together for the first time 31 agencies and their bureaus, nearly 100,000 employees, and almost $6 billion in Federal funds now devoted to transportation. The activities of these transportation agencies, programs, and experts must now be consolidated, coordinated, and given imaginative, aggressive leadership.
To assist the Secretary of Transportation in this enormous undertaking, 25 Presidential appointees are provided for in the act establishing the Department. I have reviewed with Mr. Boyd overnight and this morning the selection of these 25 men. I have asked him to proceed to carefully comb the Federal Government to obtain the best qualified men available and to go outside the Government to enlist the services of any of those that he thinks would be particularly suited for this field. I have told him to use only one yardstick: that is, character, integrity, and competence. He will be doing that, I am sure, with due consideration to geographical areas and to people's particular background in the field of transportation.
Secretary Gardner reviewed with him some of the important decisions he had made in the field of personnel in the reorganization of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department.
I expect that Mr. Boyd and Mr. Macy 4 will submit to me at as early a date as possible, and hopefully before Congress gets back, an eligible list of the suitable candidates.
4 John W. Macy, Jr., Chairman, Civil Service Commission.
Transportation is this Nation's biggest industry. It accounts for $1 out of every $5 in the American economy. It employs more than 2 1/2 million people. To insure that this great industry serves the needs of our people, satisfies the demands of our expanding economy, we will look to the Secretary of Transportation.
The Congress has conferred upon him responsibility to provide leadership in transportation matters: in the development of national transportation policies and programs, in the advancement of transportation technology and the promotion of safety, in all modes of transportation.
The President looks to him, as does his country, for the leadership and guidance that are essential to build a nation and maintain the type of national transportation system that this country deserves and must have.
I want to introduce to you now Mr. Boyd and his charming wife.
SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS FOR ADOPTED CHILDREN
[6.] This morning I signed some private bills which point to the need for amendments to the Social Security Act.
A copy of my signing statement will be made available by Mr. Christian.
DISCUSSIONS WITH THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE
[7.] Secretary Gardner flew down to visit me yesterday afternoon and we spent some time reviewing various plans and proposals in the area of health, education, and welfare.
This is one of my favorite subjects and I asked the Secretary to join us here today.
As I have told you, other Cabinet officers will be coming prior to the operation this week.
As you know, the HEW is the second largest department in the entire Federal Government.
Within the past 2 years, HEW has launched more than forty programs in education and health alone. This is a considerable number of new programs for any department.
At my request, Secretary Gardner has been reviewing ways to streamline the Department and to make it more modern and efficient, and economical in its operation.
Dr. Gardner has submitted to me some very far-reaching proposals for major reorganizations of the Health, Education, and Welfare Department. In general, I believe they are worthy of very serious consideration. I have asked Director Schultze of the Budget Bureau and members of my White House staff to join the Secretary in giving these most careful study.
Last Friday I met with members of Secretary Gardner's task force on nursing homes that I asked to be set up some time ago. I asked him to develop a radical new program for care of the elderly and to call on the best architects available in America to create designs for these homes.
The Secretary expects this task force to work out a plan involving Federal, State, and local participation, along with private enterprise, to provide much better care for our senior citizens.
We want the nursing home to be a place of comfort and not a prison for the old.
We reviewed my directive to give top priority in Federal programs for producing health workers.5 The Secretary predicts that total training and retraining in these vital occupations will almost double during this coming year.
5 See Item 490.
The Secretary gave me an excellent report on the launching of the teaching corps last night.
He believes it has already proven its value in getting dedicated young teachers to go into the slum schools. He recommends that we triple the size of the Teacher Corps in the next year.
The Secretary brought me some bad news as well as good. He estimates one million students will drop out of school this year; 3 out of 10 will not finish high school. Eleven million American adults have not completed sixth grade education. Three million are totally illiterate. It costs us about $37 billion a year in lost earning capacity.
So I urge the parents of America to help us stop this. I urge the students to get more education and to stay in school. And I warn the educators and religious leaders of America of their need to modernize and improve programs to appeal to our young people. Otherwise, delinquency and crime will continue to increase.
Dr. Gardner reported that the United States ranks 11th among the nations in infant mortality. This is a record that we do not want to keep very long.
He also gave me some grim facts about the health hazards caused by the contamination of our environment.
ANNOUNCEMENT OF APPOINTMENT OF DIRECTOR OF THE HEART INSTITUTE
[8.] Finally, I reviewed with the Secretary his recommendation for the new Director of the Heart Institute. I told him I wanted an outstanding cardiologist who has not forgotten that the object of health research is to help people.
Dr. Gardner assured me that he has just that kind of a man.
I am happy this morning to announce the appointment of Dr. Donald S. Frederickson, who was formerly Clinical Director of the Heart Institute. His biography will be made available to you through Mr. Christian.
Now I would like to present to you Secretary Gardner.
Since he is a Republican, maybe he can discuss some of his plans without being accused of playing politics.
I assure you the fact that the first two Cabinet officers are Republicans is purely coincidental.
REMARKS OF SECRETARY GARDNER
[9.] SECRETARY GARDNER. The President and I talked about a great many things. I will just touch on five of them that I think may be of particular interest to you.
First, social security. On October 12th, the President announced, as a minimum program for improvements in social security cash benefits: an average increase of 10 percent, a minimum benefit of $100 for those with 25 years coverage under the program, and changes in the retirement test to allow older persons who work to have more total income.
The President said at Baltimore6 that the average increase might be even higher than 10 percent, perhaps 12 percent, perhaps 14 percent. That was really the basis of our conversation.
6 See Item 509.
We discussed the various alternatives for reaching these figures; the means of financing them. And since we have not yet completed all of the staff work, we are not prepared to make any announcement today on that.
[10.] The second subject is health manpower. There isn't any other problem which is a more serious barrier to the achievement of the health goals of the American people than the serious shortages in health manpower. This is not a new problem. We have had it for 20 years. The Government is already doing a great deal to train doctors, dentists, nurses.
One of the most serious shortages is in the nursing field. One of the most hopeful things that we can do is to bring back into the field people who have practiced, have been trained, and are now out of the field.
There are 300,000 nurses still licensed but not working today. We have set as this year's goal bringing back 10 percent of these, giving them refresher courses, which will enable them to practice.
Last year, we gave refresher courses to 1,000. This year we are shooting for 30,000. If we achieve that, it will be the equivalent of a whole year's graduating class of nurses. We hope to do the same with medical technologists on a smaller scale.
We have to train more subprofessionals in the health fields if we are going to do the job that the American people want us to do.
On September 29 the President wrote to the Department of Labor, the Veterans Administration, and HEW, and told us to get busy on this. We are getting busy.
Secretary Wirtz and I plan to produce twice as many health workers in these categories as last year. These are practical nurses, nurses aides, laboratory assistants, and workers at that level.
MATERNAL AND CHILD HEALTH
[11.] Third, maternal and child health. The President already alluded to the shocking figures here. We think of ourselves as an enlightened nation. Most Americans, if asked, would surely say that we provide the best health care in the world, or very near the best. You might think, then, that we would rank lowest in infant mortality. But, as the President pointed out, we rank 11th. By the standards of the most advanced country in terms of infant mortality, we lose 40,000 more babies each year than we should.
To me, and to the President, that is a shocking fact and we intend to do something about it.
Infant mortality is only the beginning of the problem. There are more than 1 million children who need eye glasses, who can't afford them. There is an urgent need for dental care among all children of lowincome families. Many children suffer from chronic diseases or handicapping conditions of various sorts, which either go untreated altogether, or are treated so late that the condition is far worse and more irreparable than it might have been.
I am going to recommend legislation-and I have discussed this with the President for a new program of grants to experiment with new ways of providing children with health services, new ways of training child health workers. At the same time, we are going to work toward a program of early case finding, early diagnosis, and early treatment which will get at these conditions before they do become irreparable.
THE TEACHER CORPS
[12.] Fourth, the Teacher Corps. One-fifth of the children of this Nation are not receiving the education that they should have. One of the reasons is clearly the teacher shortage. The Teacher Corps sends its members into those communities where the need is greatest. They work on the local level, under local control, and only where they have been invited. Many communities have invited them--far more than we can serve.
The Teacher Corps now has 1,250 members. I have recommended to the President that we triple that next summer.
There are great numbers of able young people across the country who are eager to serve. I said that we had filled 1,250 slots. We had 12,000 applications.
And the communities are eager to have them. In short, there is a grave need. They are a dedicated young people, eager to serve, and the Teacher Corps is an ideal device for bringing those two together.
THE REORGANIZATION OF HEW
[13.] Finally, I will mention the subject of reorganization. I have proposed to the President a major and far-reaching reorganization of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Specifically, I have proposed the establishment of three sub-Cabinet departments, each headed by a secretary and each responsible to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare: a Department of Health, a Department of Education, and a Department of Individual and Family Services, which would include both social security and welfare, and perhaps other programs.
This will reduce the number of line agencies reporting to the Secretary from eight to three. It will give each of the three primary program fields a stronger national voice and greater prominence, and, at the same time, it will keep the three fields closely related under one management and in a position where they can work very closely.
We have discovered there isn't any other way to get at the complex problems of poverty, the problems of the cities, and the other complex problems that face us today, without interrelation of these three fields.
We owe it to the taxpayers, and the President feels this very strongly, to adopt the most efficient and effective forms of organization to do the job. Nothing has occupied my time more fully since I have been Secretary.
Only sound and modern management of this Department will insure that the taxpayers' dollar appropriated for education will finally bring about some improvement in the American schools.
Thank you very much.
[14.] THE PRESIDENT. If you have any questions of Mr. Gardner, I am sure he will be glad to answer them, or if you have anything on your mind that you would like for me to comment upon I will be glad to do it.
MR. BOYD'S APPOINTMENT
Q. Mr. President, do you intend to give Mr. Boyd a recess appointment?
THE PRESIDENT. I intend to nominate him when Congress gets back in January, as I did in the case of Secretary Weaver and Others.
Q. You will wait until then for the Department to begin formally functioning?
THE PRESIDENT. Well, I think the statute provides that.
FACTOR OF THE BACKLASH IN THE CAMPAIGN
[15.] Q. Mr. President, with respect to the others, I hope you won't mind a question about the campaign.
THE PRESIDENT. No, not a bit.
Q. Could you give us your judgment on how big a factor the backlash is in the campaign?
THE PRESIDENT. Yes. I will give you a statement at the conclusion of these questions on the backlash, if that is agreeable. If there are any other questions, I will take them first.
Q. That is agreeable, sir.
THE PRESIDENTS COMMENTS ON MR. NIXON
[16.] Q. Mr. President, if I might also change the subject slightly, the Republicans are making or trying to make very much out of your comments on Mr. Nixon the other day. Do you think there is any need or desire for clarification of what you said?
THE PRESIDENT. No, I don't think so. I responded to your question the other day about the terms of the Manila Agreement.7
7 See Item 577 .
The response, I think, covered two points: One, the provisions of the Manila Agreement; and, second, my opinion that the person who prompted the question and the criticism of the leaders who participated in that agreement, particularly the leaders of South Vietnam who signed it, and the other signatories, did not base it upon knowledge and information from the diplomatic front, the Secretary of State, or any who participated in the Conference, or from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or from the National Security Council, but simply based it upon a political campaign speech.
I don't care--and I don't think the people would want us to--to. involve their men or involve this question in the campaign. I don't intend to.
I pointed out very clearly what the Conference provided: unanimous agreement by all nations. I thought that the criticism of it was not based upon fact but fantasy; not based upon merit but upon politics.
PLANS FOR THE PRESIDENT'S SURGERY
[17.] Q. Mr. President, sir, if it turns out--
THE PRESIDENT. That "sir" kind of disarms me. Go ahead. I hope it's a friendly question.
Q. It is.
If it turns out that the facilities at Brooke do prove adequate and you can have your operations there, could you be a little more specific? Would it come in the next few days?
THE PRESIDENT. That will depend upon the doctors. Mrs. Johnson and I have talked it over. And she is very persuasive. We want to get it over with as soon as we can. We see no reason to delay when you have this thing to face up to.
As soon as they can make the necessary tests, laboratory examinations and others, we hope we can do it.
I would like for it to occur certainly this week or the early part of next week. The doctors have indicated in their conference with you it would be 2 weeks, 15 days, something like that.
We are going to try to expedite them.
THE PRESIDENT'S HEALTH
[18.] Q. Secondly, sir, since your health is in the news these days, I wonder if you would just tell us how you feel.
THE PRESIDENT. I feel fine. I have a huskiness in my voice which you can observe, as a result of this growth or polyp, or whatever they call it.
I have a little strain and pulling on my side. I don't want to get into too much detail about that for fear it might arouse your sensibilities, or it might not be considered in good taste. But it is enough that I am conscious of the fact that I have problems there.
I am not in any pain of a serious nature, but it is something that I want to get over. As long as you have a kind of curtain hanging over you, not knowing what is in your throat, what is going to be the result of it, the best way to do is to just hit the cold water. And that is what I want to do, as soon as the doctors will let me.
That is why we are scheduling this afternoon a meeting tomorrow to make some preparatory examinations and have those results submitted to the Mayo Clinic people. Dr. Burkley 8 came in last night.
8 Vice Adm. George G. Burkley, Physician to the President.
Then we hope that their decision will be favorable and we can move ahead rather quickly.
I would say that I believe we will considerably advance the date, not through any emergency but just because I want to get the answer, get it behind me, and get on to my work.
It will be necessary to get some of these bills out of the way. I will try to do that today, tomorrow, and the next day. I hope you don't think we have a limited time to sign them and to analyze them. Each one has to be considered by the Budget and the various departments concerned. But we will be signing hundreds.
Those of you who are not in good physical condition better go back and rest up and be prepared for these announcements, or get some extra help in here.
I just observed the other morning on television that some of our associates on the trip, at least part of the trip, who visited one or two places with us spend most of their time talking about their physical condition instead of the Manila Conference. I don't want that to get involved here.
The people are interested in what happens to all of these bills, the legislation, and so forth. So I hope you all get your comforts taken care of and report what we hand to you.
[19.] Q. Mr. President, would you give us your forecast on the election Tuesday?
THE PRESIDENT. I really don't know much more than you do. I have asked the Postmaster General to come down. I don't know just when he will be here. I thought I would get him to bring me up to date on what the Members of Congress tell him.
I have the impression from what he briefly said to me, when we were in a signing ceremony the other morning, that he anticipates there will be no substantial change at all in the Senate.
We may actually gain, make a gain, in the Senate.
He anticipates that whatever loss there is in the House will be much smaller than the average loss. He thinks, because of the very fine record that the 89th Congress has made, that most of these political gestures made in the last few days of the campaign by people who are trying to gain some seats will not pay off at the polls on Tuesday.
But I don't know what they will show. I don't think it makes a great deal of difference whether you make a prediction of 5, 10, 15, or 20 in these matters, unless there is some change in overall policy, and I don't anticipate that. I think the Democrats will have a good, healthy, substantial majority in the House of Representatives because the American people approve of the fine work of this Congress.
I think we will change some Republican seats. Some of them are going to lose. But I don't think it will be because they supported our program; it will be because of other reasons and because they didn't support it.
And I think some Democrats will lose for the same reason.
But I don't expect any great swing. I expect us really to hold our own or pick up seats in the Senate. If we do suffer any losses in the House they will be minimal and I think below the average since 1890. That is 40-some-odd--41, I think.
Reporter: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT. Does anyone have any questions of Secretary Gardner?
STATEMENT BY THE PRESIDENT ON THE "WHITE BACKLASH"
[20.] Q. Mr. President, you won't forget that statement, will you?
THE PRESIDENT. I will do it right now. Thank you.
I can think of nothing more dangerous, more divisive, or more self-destructive than the effort to prey on what is called "white backlash."
I thought it was a mistake to pump this issue up in the 1964 campaign, and I do not think it served the purpose of those who did.
I think it is dangerous because it threatens to vest power in the hands of second-rate men whose only qualification is their ability to pander to other men's fears.
I think it divides this Nation at a very critical time--and therefore it weakens us as a united country.
I think that the so-called "white backlash" is destructive, not only of the interests of Negro Americans, but of all those who stand to gain from humane and far-sighted government. And those that stand to gain from humane and far-sighted government is everybody.
Nevertheless, there are those who try to stimulate suspicion into hatred, and to make fear and frustration their springboard into public office. Many of them do it openly. Some let their henchmen do it for them. Their responsibility is the same.
Americans are rightly concerned about the civil disorders that have taken place in some of our cities. The leaders of those disorders are just as bigoted in their own way as those who now seek to exploit "white backlash." It is our public duty to prosecute them when they endanger the lives and the property of innocent people--Negro or white.
But the answer to their bigotry is not more bigotry in return. We will solve nothing by resorting to racism. Racism--whether it comes packaged in the Nazi's brown shirt or a three-button suit--destroys the moral fiber of a nation. It poisons public life.
So I would urge every American to ask himself before he goes to the polls on Tuesday: Do I want to cast my vote on the basis of fear? Do I want to follow the merchants of bigotry? Do I want to repudiate good men--Democrats and Republicans alike-who have given us Medicare, a great education program, a higher minimum wage, new parks and playgrounds, protection for the consumer, the hope for cleaning out our slums and rivers and the air we breathe?
I don't believe our people will want to be misled from these important subjects, and will want to do that. I believe they want to move forward in confidence--not backward in fear, hate, and by prejudice and the night riders.
Merriman Smith, United Press International: Thank you, Mr. President.
Note: President Johnson's eighty-fourth news conference was held in the Municipal Building at Fredericksburg, Texas, at 10:21 a.m. on Sunday, November 6, 1966.
Lyndon B. Johnson, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/237552